Set out on an emotional journey through the bittersweet lives of two people where memories come alive and time bends to your will. Lose yourself in moments of happiness and overcome every hardship as you relive your life’s story. A story of joy and sorrow. A simple story.
Publisher: Techland Publishing
Reviewed on: PS4 (Pro unit)
Also available for: Xbox One, PC (Epic Game Store)
Developer: Piccolo Studio
Game Directors: Alexis Corominas, Jordi Ministral
Creative Direction: José Luis Vaello
Art Direction: José Luis Vaello, Abel Oroz
As its title states, Arise: A Simple Story is just that, simple. But what makes this small indie title stand out is its magical worlds, gorgeous art direction and a phenomenal score paired with the innocuous story that is both impactful, uplifting and ultimately bittersweet.
I teared up at one particular moment and the ending of the game left me staring at the screen as the credits rolled. A triumphant emotional response for a game that uses no traditional storytelling. Arise achieves this emotional response as it drags you through its ten very different levels that take you through the life of the protagonist and their loved ones. From childhood and the moment the two first meet through to the end of their days as the protagonist is caught in some sort of limbo as he moves to the afterlife. The game begins with their bonfire funeral as mourners stand around before you transported on this magical journey that takes you jumping across ice-caps to escaping a fire.
Each level in Arise is completely different and beautiful in their own way. They’re all themed around different parts of our protagonist’s life and as he moves through the level he’ll see statues of himself and others which is how the story is presented to you, as stone statues time is frozen in front of you.
The game quickly introduces you to the basic stuff like jumping and climbing out as you make your way through the opening levels. You’re then taught how to use Arise’s time manipulation mechanic which is a joy to watch its effects play out and what makes this platformer stand out. With the right analog stick, you can press left or right to make time go forward or back and this can be used to solve puzzles or traverse areas. In one level you reverse time to be able to walk across a frozen pond that’s slowly melting to make it across, in another you’re given a grapple-rope and hook onto flying bugs then move time to make it across a gap. It gets increasingly more complicated as the game moves along and in later levels pausing time is an important mechanic for solving certain puzzles. It’s very rewarding and if you choose to seek out the game’s collectables which offer you beautiful artwork that expands the game’s story — I’d recommend it — then you’ll have to overcome some of the harder time manipulation puzzles, but it’s well worth trying.